THE Easdale brothers and their bus firm are on board with the fight to save intensive care services at IRH.

McGill's owners Sandy and James Easdale are getting behind the Tele's campaign to keep ICU patients in the local hospital.

They are set to print a message on every ticket their drivers issue, meaning 500,000 passengers will see it each week.

Hospital staff were stunned when they were told last month that patients would now go to Glasgow's Queen Elizabeth University Hospital instead.

Nearly 12,000 people have signed a petition opposing the closure.

The local health and social care partnership was not informed, despite senior health board officials claiming to the contrary.

Health board bosses say the unit is still open, but those needing 'level 3' care are transferred.

The Easdales are major investors and employers in the area and they say Inverclyde Royal must retain its services for the district to thrive.

Sandy Easdale said: “The intensive care unit at IRH is essential to Inverclyde residents, providing critical care for many in our community.

"The health board’s decision is absurd and we cannot stand by and let it happen.

"We’re calling for councillors, MPs and MSPs to put politics aside and save this vital service.”

James Easdale added: “McGill’s are urging the thousands on Inverclyde residents we carry every week to sign the petition launched by Councillor Chris McEleny.

"McGill’s Buses carry 500,000 customers every week and we’re printing messages on every ticket, asking our customers to do their part and sign the petition.

"We need to make our voices heard.”

Councillor Chris McEleny has met with health secretary Jeane Freeman to put questions to the health board and says he is delighted that a key local business in McGill's is supporting the push.

He said: “I am very pleased that McGill’s are supporting the campaign to protect our vital health services in Inverclyde.

"Ensuring that people can receive intensive care locally is really important for patient safety.

"The people of Inverclyde are being loud and clear that the health board should reinstate intensive care at the IRH and that they should think twice before they attempt to make any future changes to our local hospital services."

The health board announced the changes to the ICU as part of a new patient model following the Covid-19 outbreak.

It would mean around 100 very ill patients a year being transferred to the Queen Elizabeth for treatment.

This would mean their loved ones would also face around a 50-mile round trip to the hospital.

Bosses say the ICU beds at IRH will remain open to stabilise patients before transfer and that people would then return to Inverclyde when they no longer need level three care.

But their move has been opposed by patients, members of the public, union officials and politicians of all parties and none.

The council leader has branded the board's handling of the situation as 'appalling' and it is set to be discussed in parliament after Greenock-born MSP Jamie Greene secured a Holyrood debate.